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Wondering which moves to bust out on the dance floor to look hot? Apparently, it's all in the hips.
Using motion capture technology, researchers turned real women into featureless dancing avatars and showed the videos to 200 people — 143 women and 57 men, ages 18 and over. By watching avatars rather than actual women, the participants wouldn't be distracted by clothing, facial expressions, or hair.
They then rated the moves. No surprise — swaying hips and dancing in sync with the rhythm was preferred.
“The hips are clearly a major feature in defining femininity in walk,” said Nick Neave, associate professor of psychology at Northumbria University in England and an author of the paper in Scientific Reports. “We were expecting that it would be a major defining feature in dance.”
Bad dancers waved their arms about too wildly or held their limbs rigid and close to their bodies, dancing like robots.
“Wildly flinging your arms and legs about randomly is bad. Also, having very kind of small kind of rigid movement is bad,” Neave said.
Dancing is fun but it also communicates a message. Good dancers are showing off qualities that people want in mates, such as coordination, strength, and creativity.
“To be able to move independently and do different things with different limbs, it is a good overall sign of the cortical motor skills,” Neave said. “We think it shows intelligence and creativity.”
Body movements communicate information that contribute to attraction even though most people remain unaware of it, said Frank Pollick, a professor of psychology at the University of Glasgow, who wasn't involved in the study.
But not all dancing is about attracting a partner; sometimes it's just for fun.
"People dance for many, many reasons," said Neave.